The Federal Government says it may consider adopting the University Transparency Account System (UTAS) presented by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour, said this on Tuesday while addressing journalists after meeting with the leadership of the senate and that of ASUU.The Federal Government in October 2019 directed workers in its ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) to enroll on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).Members of the academic union kicked against the payment platform, citing “irregularities”.They, instead, proposed UTAS as an alternative to IPPIS.The union embarked on strike in March after the federal government insisted they enroll on the IPPIS platform.But speaking after the meeting, Ngige said the alternative payment platform presented by ASUU was homegrown and worth given consideration.He said UTAS will be put through thorough assessment.The minister said no concrete decision has been reached, and that the government has “neither jettisoned the implementation of the IPPIS nor fully accepted UTAS”.“We agreed at the meeting to give required consideration to the UTAS alternative they came up with as a way of finding lasting solution to the lingering crisis over implementation of IPPIS,” Ngige said.

“We have neither jettisoned the implementation of the IPPIS nor fully accepted UTAS.“The level we moved to now is to subject ASUU’s scheme to integrity test and in doing so, it will be presented to users like the office of Accountant General of the Federation on Wednesday .“After that, it will be sent to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and from there to the office of the National Security Adviser for second look.“The platform is an option grown device that requires stage by stage consideration and from the looks of things is good.”The development comes six days after President Muhammadu Buhari said only federal workers on IPPIS will be paid their salaries.Before now, the Federal Government had insisted that only lecturers captured on the IPPS platform will be paid salaries.President Buhari had explained that the decision not to pay federal workers not captured on the IPPIS was to reduce personnel cost.He said, “Personnel cost is still our largest single item of expenditure. In the 7 months to 31st July 2020, it accounted for 34 percent of total Federal Government spending and is projected at 33 percent of 2021 expenditure.“To check the incidence of payments to non-existent personnel and unauthorised allowances, only Federal staff that have been captured on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (‘IPPIS’) platform will receive salaries.“All agencies have been directed to ensure that they obtain all necessary approvals before embarking on any fresh recruitment. Any breach of these directives will be severely sanctioned.”

ASUU had embarked on an indefinite strike on March 23 over alleged shortcomings of IPPIS and failure of the Federal Government to honour its 2019 agreement.ASUU had also rejected IPPIS, insisting that it violates university autonomy and proposed the UTAS as an alternative.Instead, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution was developed as an alternative to IPPIS by the varsity lecturers.President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, earlier explained that there was nowhere in the world where IPPIS is being implemented that universities are put under the civil service.He said if Nigeria wanted to have 21st-century universities, with global ranking, it cannot be achieved through IPPIS.“This is because IPPIS will shut the door against scholars who are to come from outside Nigeria, scholars who are not on the pensionable appointment within the system.“IPPIS will bring universities under direct civil service control and the system does not work that way.“That kind of system will kill innovation, will kill creativity and it will kill academic freedom and autonomy.”

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